Those with eating disorders should avoid season five of The Crown, charity urges

Eating disorder charities have urged those struggling with disordered eating or who are in recovery to exercise caution when watching the upcoming season of The Crown.

The fifth season of the popular Netflix series will return to the small screen on Wednesday (9 November). It will cover the breakdown of King Charles III and Princess Diana’s relationship and Diana’s struggles with her mental health.

During the second episode, titled “The System”, Diana is seen speaking into a tape recorder about suffering from bulimia for Andrew Morton’s 1992 biography, Diana: Her True Story.

Recalling the night before she married Charles, she says: “I was suddenly overwhelmed, and I sobbed my eyes out. I ate everything in sight. I was sick all over the place, which was a big sign that all was not well.”

Eating disorder charity Beat describes bulimia as a serious mental illness and estimates that it impacts around 230,000 people in the UK.

People with bulimia are caught in a cycle of eating large quantities of food (called a binge), often as a way of coping with difficult emotions. They may then try to compensate for that overeating by vomiting, excessively exercising or taking laxatives (called a purge).

Netflix has confirmed to The Independent that season five of The Crown will not carry any trigger warnings or signpost viewers to eating disorder helplines.

Experts told The Independent that while a depiction of Diana’s struggle may help raise awareness of bulimia and encourage people to seek help, it’s important to remember that every individual’s experience of the disease is different.

“We would not encourage anyone currently struggling with an eating disorder to view content such as this, which may be upsetting and have a negative impact on their recovery,” Joanne Byrne, chief executive of Talk ED said.

Elizabeth Debicki as Diana in The Crown season 5 (Netflix)
Elizabeth Debicki as Diana in The Crown season 5 (Netflix)

“We hope that Netflix will provide a trigger warning and direct people to sources of support if they are affected by this storyline.”

Eating disorder charity Beat said it is crucial that a portrayal of bulimia is done in a responsible and accurate way.

“For instance, a common misconception is that bulimia only impacts those who are underweight, however the reality is that eating disorders can impact people of any weight, shape, age, gender or background,” Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Beat said.

Diana, Princess of Wales, at Wimbledon in 1995 (Getty Images)
Diana, Princess of Wales, at Wimbledon in 1995 (Getty Images)

“We’d suggest that anybody currently unwell with an eating disorder takes caution when deciding whether or not to watch any programme which focuses on eating disorders.

“If anybody has been affected by anything they have seen, we would encourage them to speak to somebody close to them and reach out to Beat for support if needed.”

If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s health, you can contact Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677 or beateatingdisorders.org.uk.